Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

A MONK OF FIFE
A Romance of the Days of Jeanne D'Arc - Joan of Arc
by Andrew Lang

CHAPTER V
OF THE FRAY ON THE DRAWBRIDGE AT CHINON CASTLE

During supper, to which they called me, my master showed me the best countenance that might be, and it was great joy to me to eat off clean platters once again, on white linen strewn with spring flowers. As the time was Lent, we had fare that they called meagre: fish from the Vienne water, below the town, and eggs cooked in divers fashions, all to the point of excellence, for the wine and fare of Chinon are famous in France. As my duty was, I waited on my master and on the maid Elliot, who was never silent, but babbled of all that she had heard since she came into the town; as to where the Pucelle had lighted off her horse (on the edge-stone of a well, so it seemed), and where and with what goodwife she lodged, and how as yet no message had come to her from the castle and the King; and great joy it was to watch and to hear her. But her father mocked, though in a loving manner; and once she wept at his bourdes, and shone out again, when he fell on his knees, offering her a knife and baring his breast to the stroke, for I have never seen more love between father and child, my own experience being contrary. Yet to my sisters my father was ever debonnair; for, as I have often marked, the mothers love the sons best and the sons the mothers, and between father and daughters it is the same. But of my mother I have spoken in the beginning of this history.

When supper was ended, and all things made orderly, I had no great mind for my bed, having slept my fill for that time. But the maid Elliot left us early, which was as if the light had been taken out of the room.

Beside the fire, my master fell to devising about the state of the country, as burgesses love to do. And I said that, if I were the Dauphin, Chinon Castle should not hold me long, for my "spur would be in my horse's side, and the bridle on his mane," {9} as the old song of the Battle of Harlaw runs, and I on the way to Orleans. Thereto he answered, that he well wished it were so, and, mocking, wished that I were the Dauphin.

"Not that our Dauphin is a coward, the blood of Saint Louis has not fallen so low, but he is wholly under the Sieur de La Tremouille, who was thrust on him while he was young, and still is his master, or, as we say, his governor. Now, this lord is one that would fain run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, and this side of him is Burgundian and that is Armagnac, and on which of the sides his heart is, none knows. At Azincour, as I have heard, he played the man reasonably well. But he waxes very fat for a man-at-arms, and is fond of women, and wine, and of his ease. Now, if once the King ranges up with the Bastard of Orleans, and Xaintrailles, and the other captains, who hate La Tremouille, then his power, and the power of the Chancellor, the Archbishop of Rheims, is gone and ended. So these two work ever to patch up a peace with Burgundy, but, seeing that the duke has his father's death to avenge on our King, they may patch and better patch, but no peace will come of it. And the captains cry "Forward!" and the archbishop and La Tremouille cry "Back!" and in the meantime Orleans will fall, and the Dauphin may fly whither he will, for France is lost. But, for myself, I would to the saints that I and my lass were home again, beneath the old thorn-tree at Polwarth on the green, where I have been merry lang syne."

With that word he fell silent, thinking, I doubt not, of his home, as I did of mine, and of the house of Pitcullo and the ash-tree at the door, and the sea beyond the ploughed land of the plain. So, after some space of silence, he went to his bed, and I to mine, where for long I lay wakeful, painting on the dark the face of Elliot, and her blue eyes, and remembering her merry, changeful ways.

Betimes in the morning I was awakened by the sound of her moving about through the house, and having dressed and gone forth from my little chamber, I found her in the house-place, she having come from early Mass. She took little heed of me, giving me some bread and wine, the same as she and her father took; and she was altogether less gay and wilful than she had been, and there seemed to be something that lay heavy on her mind. When her father asked her if the gossips at the church door had given her any more tidings of the Maid, she did but frown, and soon left the chamber, whence my master led me forth into his booth, and bade me show him my hand in writing. This pleased him not ill, and next I must grind colours to his liking; and again he went about his business, while I must mind the booth, and be cap in hand to every saucy page that came from the castle with an order from his lord.

Full many a time my hand was on my whinger, and yet more often I wished myself on the free road again, so that I were out of ill company, and assuredly the Lorrainer Maid, whatever she might be, was scarcely longing more than I for the day when she should unfurl her banner and march, with me at her back, to Orleans. For so irksome was my servitude, and the laying of colours on the ground of banners for my master to paint, and the copying of books of Hours and Missals, and the insolence of customers worse born than myself, that I could have drowned myself in the Vienne water but for the sight of Elliot. Yet she was become staid enough, and betimes sad; as it seemed that there was no good news of her dear Maid, for the King would not see her, and all men (it appeared), save those who had ridden with her, mocked the Pucelle for a bold ramp, with a bee in her bonnet. But the two gentlemen that had been her escort were staunch. Their names were Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy, good esquires.

Of me Elliot made ofttimes not much more account than of her jackanapes, which was now in very high favour, and waxing fat, so that, when none but her father could hear her, she would jest and call him La Tremouille.

Yet I, as young men will, was forward in all ways to serve her, and to win her grace and favour. She was fain to hear of Scotland, her own country, which she had never seen, and I was as fain to tell her. And betimes I would say how fair were the maidens of our own country, and how any man that saw her would know her to be a Scot, though from her tongue, in French, none might guess it. And, knowing that she loved wildflowers, I would search for them and bring them to her, and would lead her to speak of romances which she loved, no less than I, and of pages who had loved queens, and all such matters as young men and maids are wont to devise of; and now she would listen, and at other seasons would seem proud, and as if her mind were otherwhere. Young knights many came to our booth, and looked ill-pleased when I served them, and their eyes were ever on the inner door, watching for Elliot, whom they seldom had sight of.

So here was I, in a double service, who, before I met Brother Thomas, had been free of heart and hand. But, if my master's service irked me, in that other I found comfort, when I could devise with Elliot, as concerning our country and her hopes for the Maid. But my own hopes were not high, nor could I mark any sign that she favoured me more than another, though I had the joy to be often in her company. And, indeed, what hope could I have, being so young, and poor, and in visible station no more than any 'prentice lad? My heart was much tormented in these fears, and mainly because we heard no tidings that the Maid was accepted by the Dauphin, and that the day of her marching, and of my deliverance from my base craft of painting, was at hand.

It so fell out, how I knew not, whether I had shown me too presumptuous for an apprentice, or because of any other reason, that Elliot had much forborne my company, and was more often in church at her prayers than in the house, or, when in the house, was busy in divers ways, and I scarce ever could get word of her. Finding her in this mood, I also withdrew within myself, and was both proud and sorely unhappy, longing more than ever to take my own part in the world as a man-at-arms. Now, one day right early, I being alone in the chamber, copying a psalter, Elliot came in, looking for her father. I rose at her coming, doffing my cap, and told her, in few words, that my master had gone forth. Thereon she flitted about the chamber, looking at this and that, while I stood silent, deeming that she used me in a sort scarce becoming my blood and lineage.

Suddenly she said, without turning round, for she was standing by a table gazing at the pictures in a Book of Hours -

"I have seen her!"

"The Pucelle?--do you speak of her, gentle maid?"

"I saw her and spoke to her, and heard her voice"; and here her own broke, and I guessed that she was near to weeping. "I went up within the castle precinct, to the tower Coudraye," she said, "for I knew that she lodged hard by, with a good woman who dwells there. I passed into the chapel of St. Martin on the cliff, and there heard the voice of one praying before the image of Our Lady. The voice was even as you said that day--the sweetest of voices. I knelt beside her, and prayed aloud for her and for France. She rested her hand on my hair--her hair is black, and cut "en ronde" like a man's. It is true that they say, she dresses in man's garb. We came forth together, and I put my hand into hers, and said, "I believe in you; if none other believes, yet do I believe." Then she wept, and she kissed me; she is to visit me here to-morrow, la fille de Dieu--"

She drew a long sob, and struck her hand hard on the table; then, keeping her back ever towards me, she fled swiftly from the room. I was amazed--so light of heart as she commonly seemed, and of late disdainful--to find her in this passion. Yet it was to me that she had spoken--to me that she had opened her heart. Now I guessed that, if I was ever to win her, it must be through this Pucelle, on whom her mind was so strangely bent. So I prayed that, if it might be God's will, He would prosper the Maid, and let me be her loyal servitor, and at last bring me to my desire.

Something also I dreamed, as young men will who have read many romances, of myself made a knight for great feats of arms, and wearing in my salade my lady's favour, and breaking a spear on Talbot, or Fastolf, or Glasdale, in some last great victory for France.

Then shone on my eyesight, as it were, the picture of these two children, for they were little more, Elliot and the Maid, kneeling together in the chapel of St. Martin, the gold hair and the black blended; and what were they two alone against this world and the prince of this world? Alas, how much, and again how little, doth prayer avail us! These thoughts were in my mind all day, while serving and answering customers, and carrying my master's wares about the town, and up to the castle on the cliff, where the soldiers and sentries now knew me well enough, and the Scots archers treated me kindly. But as for Elliot, she was like her first self again, and merrier than common with her father, to whom, as far as my knowledge went, she said not a word about the meeting in the crypt of St. Martin's chapel, though to me she had spoken so freely. This gave me some hope; but when I would have tried to ask her a question, she only gazed at me in a manner that abashed me, and turned off to toy with her jackanapes. Whereby I went to my bed perplexed, and with a heavy heart, as one that was not yet conversant with the ways of women--nay, nor ever, in my secular life, have I understood what they would be at. Happier had it been for my temporal life if I had been wiser in woman's ways. But commonly, when we have learned a lesson, the lore comes too late.

Next day my master had business at the castle with a certain lord, and took me thither to help in carrying his wares. This castle was a place that I loved well, it is so old, having first been builded when the Romans were lords of the land; and is so great and strong that our bishop's castle of St. Andrews seems but a cottage compared to it. From the hill-top there is a wide prospect over the tower and the valley of the Vienne, which I liked to gaze upon. My master, then, went in by the drawbridge, high above the moat, which is so deep that, I trow, no foeman could fill it up and cross it to assail the walls. My master, in limping up the hill, had wearied himself, but soon passed into the castle through the gateway of the bell-tower, as they call it, while I waited for him on the further end of the bridge, idly dropping morsels of bread to the swans that swam in the moat below.

On the drawbridge, standing sentinel, was a French man-at-arms, a young man of my own age, armed with a long fauchard, which we call a bill or halberd, a weapon not unlike the Lochaber axes of the Highlandmen. Other soldiers, French, Scottish, Spaniards, Germans, a mixed company, were idling and dicing just within the gate.

I was throwing my last piece of crust to a swan, my mind empty of thought, when I started out of my dream, hearing that rare woman's voice which once I had heard before. Then turning quickly, I saw, walking between two gentlemen, even those who had ridden with her from Vaucouleurs, one whom no man could deem to be other than that much-talked-of Maid of Lorraine. She was clad very simply, like the varlet of some lord of no great estate, in a black cap with a little silver brooch, a grey doublet, and black and grey hose, trussed up with many points; a sword of small price hung by her side. {10} In stature she was something above the common height of women, her face brown with sun and wind, her eyes great, grey, and beautiful, beneath black brows, her lips red and smiling. In figure she seemed strong and shapely, but so slim--she being but seventeen years of age--that, were it not for her sweet girl's voice, and for the beauty of her grey eyes, she might well have passed for a page, her black hair being cut "en ronde," as was and is the fashion among men-at-arms. Thus much have I written concerning her bodily aspect, because many have asked me what manner of woman was the blessed Maid, and whether she was beautiful. I gazed at her like one moon- struck, then, remembering my courtesy, I doffed my cap, and louted low; and she bowed, smiling graciously like a great lady, but with such an air as if her mind was far away.

She passed, with her two gentlemen, but the French sentinel barred the way, holding his fauchard thwartwise.

"On what business come you, and by what right?" he cried, in a rude voice.

"By the Dauphin's gracious command, to see the Dauphin," said one of the gentlemen right courteously. "Here is his own letter, and you may know the seal, bidding La Pucelle to come before him at this hour."

The fellow looked at the seal, and could not but acknowledge the arms of France thereon. He dropped his fauchard over his shoulder, and stood aside, staring impudently at the Maiden, and muttering foul words.

"So this is the renowned Pucelle," he cried; "by God's name" . . . and here he spoke words such as I may not set down in writing, blaspheming God and the Maid.

She turned and looked at him, but as if she saw him not; and then, a light of joy and love transfiguring her face, she knelt down on the drawbridge, folding her hands, her face bowed, and so abode while one might count twenty, we that beheld her being amazed. Then she rose and bent as if in salutation to one we saw not; next, addressing herself to the sentinel, she said, very gently -

"Sir, how canst thou take in vain the name of God, thou that art in this very hour to die?"

So speaking, she with her gentlemen went within the gate, while the soldier stood gazing after her like a man turned to stone.

The Maid passed from our sight, and then the sentinel, coming to himself, turned in great wrath on me, who stood hard by.

"What make you gaping here, you lousy wine-sack of Scotland?" he cried; and at the word, my prayer which I had made to St. Andrew in my bonds came into my mind, namely, that I should not endure to hear my country defamed.

I stopped not to think of words, wherein I never had a ready wit, but his were still in his mouth when I had leaped within his guard, so that he might not swing out his long halberd.

"Blasphemer and liar!" I cried, gripping his neck with my left hand, while with two up-cuts of my right I sent his lies down his throat in company, as I deem, with certain of his teeth.

He dropped his halberd against the wooden fence of the bridge, and felt for his dagger. I caught at his right hand with mine; cries were in my ears--St. Denis for France! St. Andrew for Scotland!--as the other men on guard came running forth to see the sport.

We gripped and swayed for a moment, then the staff of his fauchard coming between his legs, he tripped and fell, I above him; our weight soused against the low pales of the bridge side, that were crazy and old; there was a crash, and I felt myself in mid-air, failing to the moat far below us. Down and down I whirled, and then the deep water closed over me.



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